A fundraising endeavor just in time for Mother's Day may turn into an ongoing business venture for kids at Mountaineer Montessori School in Kanawha City.
"Montessori will be the go-to place for candles," said Sheri O'Neal, a mother, registered nurse and candle creator.
O'Neal first began making candles in 1998 as a hobby with a friend in a garage in Nicholas County. They made them as gifts for friends and family.
"I took a couple to work and people started buying them," O'Neal said. "Business skyrocketed."
As orders flourished, the candles were sold out of a shop in Nicholas County and also offered in other stores. Soon they were offered at Tamarack and The Greenbrier. One day, they got a call for a candle order from the Chicago office of Oprah Winfrey. O'Neal, a huge Oprah fan, had sent some samples and was beyond thrilled when the order arrived.
Candle making became so time consuming that she eventually stopped to focus upon her nursing career. For several years, she was a traveling nurse who worked in several states. Then she became a mother and settled in North Carolina, where she opened another business selling her upscale candles about four years ago.
"It was mainly online and word of mouth," she said.
Last summer, the single mother came back to West Virginia, where she has family.
She works in the neurology department at Charleston Area Medical Center's General Division, and her son is a kindergartner at Mountaineer Montessori. She loves the school and recently decided to get back into candle making as way to help raise money for the scholarship fund.
Her son, 6-year-old Max Owens, is an aspiring scientist who enjoys helping with the candle-making process out of their Charleston home.
The candles were popular at a school fundraiser in March, and it seemed like a good idea to sell them again. They will be sold Saturday at the East End Yard Sale.
"I will be there to answer questions about the candles," O'Neal said.
She will talk about the process and quality of the candles, but it isn't likely she will reveal where she gets the ingredients for scents. That is a secret among candle makers, she said.
The candles contain colorful waxy chunks and are scented through and through. That means the aroma continues as long as the candle is lit. In fact, picking up a new one and inhaling the scent is enough to encourage buyers. A candle burns for 100 hours and sells for $20. She notes they would make excellent Mother's Day gifts.